Hoh River Trail to Blue Glacier, Olympic National Park by Ray Phung

“I think we’ll do 15 miles the first day,” I announced looking up from the wilderness map.  “But the first 13 miles are REALLY flat,” I continue in hopes of quelling the looks of skepticism that Hanna gives me from the adjacent couch, “Don’t let the mileage scare you:  we’re reasonably fit people, we’ll be fine.”  I think I also said this to reassure myself that the trail I picked would be doable in a three day weekend.  I will admit – 15 miles in a day seemed like a lot.  But with the time constraint, I couldn’t figure out how else to spread out the mileage.   Surprisingly Hanna doesn’t seem phased by the proposed expedition. “It’ll be fun!” I exclaim.  All summer, we’ve been talking about doing a backpacking trip.  I hadn’t been out in the backcountry since the Enchantments and was itching for some adventure time before winter sets in.  And Hanna, just moving to the Northwest, was ready to explore her new home.  

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4th of July in the Enchantments by Ray Phung

My prior experience in the Enchantments was several years ago, when me and Temo "tried" to climb Dragontail Peak via Serpentine Ridge.  Little did I know that Dragontail Peak was only the start of a whole chain of alpine lakes and towering granite peaks, known collectively as the Enchantments.  I have long desired to backpack up to the Enchantments to both climb some of the famous routes there and to photograph the beautiful scenery.  But for the longest time, the permit system in place to protect this fragile landscape kept this desire from becoming reality.   Early this winter, I circled on my calendar the day the lottery opened for permits, and signed up as soon I could.  I was miraculously awarded a pass for the 4th of July weekend to the Core Enchantment Zone, which is the most coveted permit as it allows camping in all of the other zones.  

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Table Mountain - Wind and Fog by Ray Phung

This year for MLK day, I grabbed Adam and headed out to the Columbia River Gorge for another winter-time adventure.  Miraculously we both had the day off.  We set out to do Table Mountain on the Washington side of river.  Table Mountain is one of the higher points in the Gorge, with a sheer triangular face and and 360 degree view from the summit.  

The Table Mountain is noted for it's long, difficult hike to the summit from the Bonneville Trailhead.  Adam and I decided to do the hike from Aldrich Butte Trailhead.  This newer trailhead shortens the hike to 8 miles with 3350 feet of elevation gain.  It starts among the power lines and largely follows old, abandoned sections of service access roads.  The Aldrich Butte was a location for a WWII defense site.  After ascending a portion of Aldrich Butte, the trail splits off to follow the Cedar Creek drainage, and parallels and eventually joins the Pacific Crest Trail. 

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Rock of Ages Loop Hike by Ray Phung

Right before the new year, my buddy Temo and I drove out to the Columbia River Gorge to do the Rock of Ages Loop.  This trail is 10 miles long, while gaining around 3000 ft of elevation.  Over the last hiking season, I have been trying to knock out all the steep, scrambling hikes in the Gorge.  This trail in particular sees a lot of traffic by those training for the alpine treks up the Cascades.  

This loop starts at the Horsetail Falls trailhead, and begins by climbing up to Ponytail Falls.  

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Tom, Dick, and Harry Hike + Timberline by Ray Phung

Sometime after Christmas and before the new year, my buddy Tom invited me up to Mt Hood to run around in the woods.  He had been sick for the couple weeks prior, and was in much need of some fresh mountain air, beautiful scenery, and exercise.  And of course I am always down for an adventure.

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